On the tenacity of tiebout: A response to dowding

Adrian Kay, Andrew Marsh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Our recent article in this journalFootnote1 sought to examine the continuing currency of the theory of fiscal mobility associated with Charles Tiebout.Footnote2 Simply stated, Tiebout's ‘pure’ theory argues that consumer-voters move between local jurisdictions in response to differences in the tax-service bundle being offered by local administrations. As a result of this market-like mechanism, the allocation of local public goods can, under restrictive conditions, be optimal. We sought to link fiscal mobility with the literature on residential mobility, to examine how well the ideas travel from their origin in the USA, and to frame the discussion in relation to a number of different perspectives within the philosophy of science.

Keith Dowding has offered a characteristically robust response to our article, which he considers to be deficient in several respects. We are glad of this engagement with our work and for this opportunity to respond briefly. Dowding's critique is wide-ranging. He finds our references to Popperian falsificationism particularly problematic. The framing of some of our discussion in falsificationist terms was in large part an attempt to meet the existing literature on its own territory.Footnote3 We are not able to respond here as fully as we might wish; below we do no more than clarify our purpose and identify some points of convergence and divergence with Dowding. We are considered to have misunderstood key elements of the theoretical and empirical literature, but in seeking to correct our error Dowding appears to have misunderstood some of the points we were seeking to make. In a number of places he sets out, in slightly different terms, a position with which we entirely agree. We conclude by noting that our central argument has not been significantly weakened.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)349-355
Number of pages6
JournalNew Political Economy
Issue number3
Early online date11 Sept 2008
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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